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DJ dAndroid
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Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« on: 2011-12-16 04:47:31 »
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I really wasn't sure where to put this. I don't see it already as a thread elsewhere but I may be wrong.

Does he need an introduction? He is one of the largest influences on my atheist life. And probably the author who both taught me how to debate and filled my head with the facts to do so effectively.

RIP The Hitch
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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #1 on: 2011-12-18 13:38:13 »
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I still can't get my head around his support for the Iraq war. I choose to imagine that this was more due to his personal friendship with Ahmed Chalabi rather than any remotely reasonable decision making on his part. Otherwise I think he was a prominent atheist thinker - not with the scientific or philosophical constancy of a Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, but a powerful polemicist on a more political level. His point of view will be missed.
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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #2 on: 2011-12-18 13:55:09 »
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Noam Chomsky has probably been more consistent on political matters, but as political thinkers go Christopher Hitchens seemed more interesting even as he disappointed me on the Iraq war. Politics is always a bit more personal and though this made him a bit more inconsistant, it seemed to also make him seem a bit more human. Though I'm not remotely willing to hold him personally responsible for the likely pointless loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives in the Iraq misadventure, I still can't really ignore his support for that. If I were to imagine any "deathbed conversion" for Christopher Hitchens, I'd probably look for something on that particular issue. Anyways politics is pretty messy, so I'm willing to forgive (though not forget) his indulgences of irrationally religious neocon thinking. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2009/aug/10/religion-george-bush
« Last Edit: 2011-12-18 14:19:11 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #3 on: 2011-12-18 16:18:21 »
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[Blunderov] Well, here is a polemic for the polemicist.

Lenin's Tomb
Friday, December 16, 2011

The late Christopher Hitchens

posted by lenin

Don't take this the wrong way, but the glowing tributes to Christopher Hitchens are both tasteless and incorrect.  Have some decency.  The boring wisdom has it that Hitchens broke the mould intellectually.  He did not.  For all the unique saleability of the Hitchensian idiolect (or intertext), he was a very conventional thinker, in addition to being a provincial.  He also had a reputation for being a fierce defender of universalism, but in fact his was the provincial universalism of empire.  One might, in the same speech, catch him defending the right of others to disagree with him, then find him denying that right to Iraqis, insisting that they be coerced at gunpoint into vouchsafing his opinion.  He had a reputation for possessing a powerful intellect.  He was certainly an intellectual, and a powerful speaker and writer, a polemicist who out-classed many of his opponents.  Yet, by insisting on the difference between being an intellectual and having an intellect, I don't merely mean to be scurrilous. His difficulty in handling complex ideas was as notorious among his peers as his facility with emotionally potent oversimplifications.


Hitchens was a sensitive literary critic, but in a way this underlines his tendency to think viscerally.  He grasped instinctively the 'John Bullshit' that, for example, made Larkin tick.  Indeed, he grasped it with precision because it was a part of his own political personality, manifest in his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, his support for the Falklands War, and the blimpish outbursts redolent of the character of the 'Commander' in his memoir, Hitch-22.  Yet when he had to deal with literary theory or applications of it (see Orwell's Victory), I think he tended to flounder.  It is for a similar reason that he wasn't especially good as an atheist.  Convinced as he was that there was no intelligent way to be religious, and no need to grasp theology in any theoretical depth, he tended to rely on demotic arguments demonstrating the implausibility of religion along the lines of: "so God made the universe billions of years ago; created the life forms that would over millions of years give rise to the only species capable of worshipping him; allowed them to suffer for millenia; and only then decided to make himself known by means of human sacrifice (and at that in an illiterate society) banking on the certainty that Emperor Constantine would turn to Christianity as an official state ideology of the Roman Empire...".  This is to say nothing of the vulgar anti-Muslim rants and ugly blood-lust that he ventilated without care, and which sentiments formed a transparent motive for his turn to hypertrophic theophobia after the occupation of Iraq began to fail badly.  And what of the crude sociobiological reductionism that he pinned his mast to?  At this point, it is arguably more pernicious in its effects than even the encyclicals of the Catholic Church, or the opinions of Muslim scholars.


What he lacked in theory, he could make up for in empirical work.  Hitchens could write decent biographical and historical essays.  Blood, Class and Nostaglia as well as Hostage to History form extended historical essays in their different ways on Anglophone imperial succession.  Richly contemptuous of the abuses of empire's subjects, these books arguably expressed a liberal humanist critique of imperial malpractice rather than a marxist critique.  Perhaps there is also evidence of a decline in his standards.  His book on Thomas Paine's Rights of Man seems to have been plagiarised, riddled with factual errors and cliched to boot: what Hitchens might call a "triple crown howler".  Yet it was in his favoured role as a polemicist, that his limits were most clearly visible.  For all the efficiency with which he despatched opponents, tore up or mended reputations, exposed official crimes (or colluded in them), he was clearly obsessed with personnel.  The structures of imperialism and capital accumulation were never objects of his inquiry, even at his best.


A final cliche which should at least be qualified is that Hitchens was a wit, and all round dissolute bad boy.  Well, he could be witty, but he could also be extraordinarily priggish, crass, or just boorish.  The effect of his little joke about child rape ('no child's behind left') was ruined by his later taking an extremely high-handed tone with a rabbi who joked about circumcision.  The humour in his 'heartless' bon mot about Louis Althusser applying for the Electric Chair in Philosophy was really purchased at the expense of Helene Althusser.  It was not funny when he called the Dixie Chicks 'fat sluts', no matter what the editor of his collected quotables believes.  Consider these remarks in the context of Hitchens' mildly hedonistic lifestyle, and they become no more sparkling.  Rather, they tend to communicate a meanness of spirit, a sniggering cruelty, that was increasingly evident in later years, and contrasted markedly with the personal warmth that many of his former colleagues describe.
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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #4 on: 2011-12-20 15:16:34 »
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I think the above critic which Blunderov shared is obviously much more enamored of religion than most of the Church of Virus crowd. Other than just serving as a peculiar ideological cultural abstraction of the moment of their birth, religious theologies hold no lasting value beyond a history lesson. So with that historical caveat I completely accept Hitchens dismissive attitude towards all theology and don't really give a $#!+ what the religious apologists think of it. Whether or not I completely agree with it, his was a most efficient-yet-still-accurate treatment of all theological ideas. Sure I could fault him for not being prolific in his historical treatment of religion, but then I'd have to fault myself for the same deficit.

Other than that, I continue to find it especially poignant that he died at about the same time US troops were winding up what little was left of the Iraq war in the process of heading home. While it may not be his lasting legacy, for the next decade or so I think Hitchens will always remind me of the extreme political dangers (not to mention the hypocrisies and intellectual errors) of an infidel getting involved in other people's religious crusades. I can't think of a greater failure of logic in his lifetime. It's almost as severe as having to acknowledge that for all his brilliance, Martin Heidegger was at the end of his life an unrepentant former member of the Nazi party.  At this time when we're finally beginning to total the losses of this Iraqi misadventure I think this will continue haunt any memories of Christopher Hitchens.

Granted, it seriously wasn't his fault; the Iraq misadventure was going to happen with or without him just like the holocaust was going to happen with or without Heidegger.  Hitchen's unfortunate intellectual contributions to this disaster, however, require a bit more compensatory explanation in the final accounting than we would otherwise have to waste the energy of attention on. Personally I chalk it up to some particular personal friendships of his plus the later ravages of the alcoholism which was eating up his intellect near the end of his life. On the whole I value his memory, not only in his brilliance, but also as a cautionary tale about his failings as well.

He's certainly not my hero, but I'm sure I would have loved to meet him regardless. In the hackneyed words of American politics, "I could've really enjoyed having a beer with him."

-Mo
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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #5 on: 2011-12-23 14:19:11 »
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I find it a sad commentary on the feeble mindedness of the simpletons that are coming out of the wood work dissing Hitchens; most likely closet Christers. They were afraid to go head to head with a man that rightly or wrongly put himself out there while he was alive. I admire Hitchen for standing up and being counted, this seems a short coming of the general populace these days since we no longer have a mass media, just propaganda machines used to make money.

Anyway Hitchen was no hero and never claimed that title, he as [Blunderov] stated, was a polemicist and a note worthy one in my books.

Hopefully someone equal to the task will pick up 'the pen' and continue.

Cheers

Fritz
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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #6 on: 2011-12-25 04:43:10 »
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Pretty much like I stated when I posted this, Hitchens' influence was on my atheism. I'm intensely apolitical, and so remain(ed) unmoved and majority uninterested in anything outside the "god" realm he ever wrote or said. In any case he set out to stir some pots, and at that his life was a grand success. I can only hope when I go out-that my views on this world will be written so plainly on my sleeve. That no one can ever dispute exactly what corner I stood in. /respect
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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #7 on: 2011-12-25 20:17:53 »
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Quote from: DJ dAndroid on 2011-12-25 04:43:10   
Pretty much like I stated when I posted this, Hitchens' influence was on my atheism. I'm intensely apolitical, and so remain(ed) unmoved and majority uninterested in anything outside the "god" realm he ever wrote or said. In any case he set out to stir some pots, and at that his life was a grand success. I can only hope when I go out-that my views on this world will be written so plainly on my sleeve. That no one can ever dispute exactly what corner I stood in. /respect


Given what I've already said, I can certain say amen to DJ dandroid's sentiments here as well. His voice will be missed. He died way too young.
« Last Edit: 2011-12-25 20:18:26 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:Christopher Hitchens-dead at 62
« Reply #8 on: 2012-04-09 06:47:55 »
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJlyfP9I-lE
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